Anti-Dühring by Frederick Engels 1877
Part III: Socialism

III. Production

After all that has been said above, the reader will not be surprised to learn that the exposition of the principal features of socialism given in the preceding part is not at all in accordance with Herr Dühring’s view. On the contrary. He must hurl it into the abyss where lie all the other rejected “bastards of historical and logical fantasy”, “barren conceptions”, “confused and hazy notions” {D. K. G. 498}, etc. To Herr Dühring, socialism in fact is not at all a necessary product of historical development and still less of the grossly material economic conditions of today, directed toward the filling of the stomach exclusively {231}. He's got it all worked out much better. His socialism is a final and ultimate truth;

it is “the natural system of society” {D. Ph. 282}, whose roots are to be found in a “universal principle of justice” {D. C. 282},

and if he cannot avoid taking notice of the existing situation, created by the sinful history of the past, in order to remedy it, this must be regarded rather as a misfortune for the pure principle of justice. Herr Dühring creates his socialism, like everything else, through the medium of his famous two men. Instead of these two puppets playing the part of master and servant, as they did in the past, they perform this once, for a change, the piece on the equality of rights — and the foundations of the Dühringian socialism have been laid.

It therefore goes without saying that to Herr Dühring the periodical crises in industry have not at all the historical significance which we were compelled to attribute to them.

In his view, crises are only occasional deviations from “normality” {218} and at most only serve to promote “the development of a more regulated order” {219}. The “common method” {227} of explaining crises by over-production is in no wise adequate for his “more exact conception of things” {343}. Of course such an explanation “may be permissible for specific crises in particular areas”. As, for example, “a swamping of the book market with works suddenly released for republication and suitable for mass sale” {227}.

Herr Dühring can at any rate go to sleep with the gratifying feeling that his immortal works will never bring on any such world disaster.

He claims, however, that in great crises, it is not over-production, but rather “the lagging behind of popular consumption... artificially produced under-consumption... interference with the natural growth of the needs of the people” (!) “which ultimately make the gulf between supply and demand so critically wide” {D. C. 227, 228}.

And he has even had the good fortune to find a disciple for this crisis theory of his.

But unfortunately the under-consumption of the masses, the restriction of the consumption of the masses to what is necessary for their maintenance and reproduction, is not a new phenomenon. It has existed as long as there have been exploiting and exploited classes. Even in those periods of history when the situation of the masses was particularly favourable, as for example in England in the fifteenth century, they under-consumed. They were very far from having their own annual total product at their disposal to be consumed by them. Therefore, while under-consumption has been a constant feature in history for thousands of years, the general shrinkage of the market which breaks out in crises as the result of a surplus of production is a phenomenon only of the last fifty years; and so Herr Dühring's whole superficial vulgar economics is necessary in order to explain the new collision not by the new phenomenon of over-production but by the thousand-year-old phenomenon of under-consumption. It is like a mathematician attempting to explain the variation in the ratio between two quantities, one constant and one variable, not by the variation of the variable but by the fact that the constant quantity remains unchanged. The under-consumption of the masses is a necessary condition of all forms of society based on exploitation, consequently also of the capitalist form; but it is the capitalist form of production which first gives rise to crises. The under-consumption of the masses is therefore also a prerequisite condition of crises, and plays in them a role which has long been recognised. But it tells us just as little why crises exist today as why they did not exist before.

Herr Dühring’s notions of the world market are altogether curious. We have seen how, like a typical German man of letters, he seeks to explain real industrial specific crises by means of imaginary crises on the Leipzig book market — the storm on the ocean by the storm in a teacup. He also imagines that present-day capitalist production must

“depend for its market mainly on the circles of the possessing classes themselves” {221},

which does not prevent him, only sixteen pages later, from presenting, in the generally accepted way, the iron and cotton industries as the modern industries of decisive importance {236} — that is, precisely the two branches of production whose output is consumed only to an infinitesimally small degree within the circle of the possessing classes and is dependent more than any other on mass use. Wherever we turn in Herr Dühring’s works there is nothing but empty and contradictory chatter. But let us take an example from the cotton industry. In the relatively small town of Oldham alone — it is one of a dozen towns round Manchester with fifty to a hundred thousand inhabitants engaged in the cotton industry — in this town alone, in the four years 1872 to 1875, the number of spindles spinning only Number 32 yarn increased from two and a half to five million; so that in one medium-sized English town there are as many spindles spinning one single count as the cotton industry of all Germany, including Alsace, possesses. And the expansion in the other branches and areas of the cotton industry in England and Scotland has taken place in approximately the same proportion. In view of these facts, it requires a strong dose of deep-rooted {555-56} effrontery to explain the present complete stagnation in the yarn and cloth markets by the under-consumption of the English masses and not by the over-production carried on by the English cotton-mill owners. *12

But enough. One does not argue with people who are so ignorant of economics as to consider the Leipzig book market in the modern industrial sense. Let us therefore merely note that Herr Dühring has only one more piece of information for us on the subject of crises, that in crises we have nothing

“but the ordinary interplay of overstrain and relaxation” {228}; that over-speculation “is not only due to the planless multiplication of private enterprises“, but that "the rashness of individual entrepreneurs and the lack of private circumspection must also be reckoned among the causes which give rise to oversupply” {229}.

And what, again, is the “cause which gives rise” to the rashness and lack of private circumspection? Just precisely this very planlessness of capitalist production, which manifests itself in the planless multiplication of private enterprises. And to mistake the translation of an economic fact into moral reprobation as the discovery of a new cause is also a piece of extreme “rashness”.

With this we can leave the question of crises. In the preceding section we showed that they were necessarily engendered by the capitalist mode of production, and explained their significance as crises of this mode of production itself, as means of compelling the social revolution, and it is not necessary to say another word in reply to Herr Dühring's superficialities on this subject. Let us pass on to his positive creations, the “natural system of society” {D. Ph. 282}.

This system, built on a “universal principle of justice” {D. C. 320} and therefore free from all consideration of troublesome material facts, consists of a federation of economic communes among which there is

“freedom of movement and obligatory acceptance of new members on the basis of fixed laws and administrative regulations” {323}.

The economic commune itself is above all

“a comprehensive schematism of great import in human history”{341} which is far superior to the “erroneous half-measures”, for example, of a certain Marx {342}. It implies “a community of persons linked together by their public right to dispose of a definite area of land and a group of productive establishments for use in common, jointly participating in the proceeds” {322}. This public right is a “right to the object... in the sense of a purely publicistic relation to nature and to the productive institutions” {342}.

We leave it to the future jurists of the economic commune to cudgel their brains as to what this means; we give it up. The only thing we gather is that

it is not at all the same as the “corporative ownership of workers' associations” {342} which would not exclude mutual competition and even the exploitation of wage-labour.

In this connection he drops the remark that

the conception of a “collective ownership”, such as is found also in Marx, is “to say the least unclear and open to question, as this conception of the future always gives the impression that it means nothing more than corporative ownership by groups of workers” {295}.

This is one more instance of Herr Dühring’s usual “vile habits” of passing off a thing for what it is not, “for whose vulgar nature” — to use his own words — “only the vulgar word snotty would be quite appropriate” {D. K. G. 506}; it is just as baseless a lie as Herr Dühring’s other invention that by collective ownership Marx means an “ownership which is at once both individual and social” {503, 505}.

In any case this much seems clear: the publicistic right of an economic commune in its means of labour, is an exclusive right of property at least as against every other economic commune and also as against society and the state.

But this right is not to entitle the commune “to cut itself off... from the outside world, for among the various economic communes there is freedom of movement and obligatory acceptance of new members on the basis of fixed laws and administrative regulations... like... belonging to a political organisation at the present time, or participation in the economic affairs of the commune” {D. C. 322-23}.

There will therefore be rich and poor economic communes, and the levelling out takes place through the population crowding into the rich communes and leaving the poor ones. So that although Herr Dühring wants to eliminate competition in products between the individual communes by means of national organisation of trade, he calmly allows competition among the producers to continue. Things are removed from the sphere of competition, but men remain subject to it.

But we are still very far from clear on the question of “publicistic right” {322}. Two pages further on Herr Dühring explains to us:

The trade commune “will at first cover the politico-social area whose inhabitants form a single legal entity and in this character have at their disposal the whole of the land, the dwellings and productive institutions” {325}.

So after all it is not the individual commune at whose disposal these things are, but the whole nation. “The public right” {322}, “right to the object”, “publicistic relation to nature” {342} and so forth is therefore not merely “in the least unclear and open to question” {295}: it is in direct contradiction with itself. It is in fact, at any rate in so far as each individual economic commune is likewise a legal entity, “an ownership which is at once both individual and social” {D. K. G. 503}, and this latter “nebulous hybrid” {504} is once again, therefore, only to be met with in Herr Dühring’s own works.

In any case the economic commune has at its disposal instruments of labour for the purpose of production. How is this production carried on? Judging by all Herr Dühring has told us, precisely as in the past, except that the commune takes the place of the capitalists. The most we are told is that everyone will then be free to choose his occupation, and that there will be equal obligation to work.

The basic form of all production hitherto has been the division of labour, on the one hand, within society as a whole, and on the other, within each separate productive establishment. How does the Dühring “sociality” {see D. C. 263, 277, 291} stand on this question?

The first great division of labour in society is the separation of town and country.

This antagonism, according to Herr Dühring, is “in the nature of things inevitable” {232}. But “it is in general doubtful to regard the gulf between agriculture and industry... as unbridgeable. In fact, there already exists, to a certain extent, constancy of interconnection with promises to increase considerably in the future“ {250}. Already, we learn, two industries have penetrated agriculture and rural production: “in the first place, distilling, and in the second, beet-sugar manufacturing... the production of spirits is already of such importance that it is more likely to be under-estimated than over-estimated“ {250-51}. And “if it were possible, as a result of some inventions, for a larger number of industries to develop in such a way that they should be compelled to localise their production in the country and carry it on in direct association with the production of raw materials” {251} — then this would weaken the antithesis between town and country and “provide the widest possible basis for the development of civilisation”. Moreover, “a somewhat similar result might also be attained in another way. Apart from technical requirements, social needs are coming more and more to the forefront, and if the latter become the dominant consideration in the grouping of human activities it will no longer be possible to overlook those advantages which ensue from a close and systematic connection between the occupations of the countryside and the technical operations of working up raw materials” {252}.

Now in the economic commune it is precisely social needs which are coming to the forefront; and so will it really hasten to take advantage, to the fullest possible extent, of the above-mentioned union of agriculture and industry? Will Herr Dühring not fail to tell us, at his accustomed length, his “more exact conceptions” {343} on the attitude of the economic commune to this question? The reader who expected him not to would be cruelly disillusioned. The above-mentioned meagre, stale commonplaces, once again not passing beyond the schnaps-distilling and beet-sugarmaking sphere of the jurisdiction of Prussian law, are all that Herr Dühring has to say on the antithesis between town and country in the present and in the future.

Let us pass on to the division of labour in detail. Here Herr Dühring is a little “more exact”. He speaks of

“a person who has to devote himself exclusively to one form of occupation” {D. C. 257}. If the point at issue is the introduction of a new branch of production, the problem simply hinges on whether a certain number of entities, who are to devote themselves to the production of one single article, can somehow be provided with the consumption (!) they require {278}. In the socialitarian system no branch of production would “require many people”, and there, too, there would be “economic species” of men “distinguished by their way of life” {329}.

Accordingly, within the sphere of production everything remains much the same as before. In society up to now, however, an “erroneous division of labour” {327} has obtained, but as to what this is, and by what it is to be replaced in the economic commune, we are only told:

“With regard to the division of labour itself, we have already said above that this question can be considered settled as soon as account is taken of the various natural conditions and personal capabilities” {259}.

In addition to capabilities, personal likings are taken into account:

“The pleasure felt in rising to types of activity which involve additional capabilities and training would depend exclusively on the inclination felt for the occupation in question and on the joy produced in the exercise of precisely this and no other thing” {D. Ph. 283} (exercise of a thing!).

And this will stimulate competition within the socialitarian system, so that

“production itself will become interesting, and the dull pursuit of it, which sees in it nothing but a means of earning, will no longer put its heavy imprint on conditions” {D. C. 265}.

In every society in which production has developed spontaneously — and our present society is of this type — the situation is not that the producers control the means of production, but that the means of production control the producers. In such a society each new lever of production is necessarily transformed into a new means for the subjection of the producers to the means of production. This is most of all true of that lever of production which, prior to the introduction of modern industry, was by far the most powerful — the division of labour. The first great division of labour, the separation of town and country, condemned the rural population to thousands of years of mental torpidity, and the people of the towns each to subjection to his own individual trade. It destroyed the basis of the intellectual development of the former and the physical development of the latter. When the peasant appropriates his land, and the townsman his trade, the land appropriates the peasant and the trade the townsman to the very same extent. In the division of labour, man is also divided. All other physical and mental faculties are sacrificed to the development of one single activity. This stunting of man grows in the same measure as the division of labour, which attains its highest development in manufacture. Manufacture splits up each trade into its separate partial operations, allots each of these to an individual labourer as his life calling, and thus chains him for life to a particular detail function and a particular tool. “It converts the labourer into a crippled monstrosity, by forcing his detail dexterity at the expense of a world of productive capabilities and instincts... The individual himself is made the automatic motor of a fractional operation” (Marx) — a motor which in many cases is perfected only by literally crippling the labourer physically and mentally. The machinery of modern industry degrades the labourer from a machine to the mere appendage of a machine. “The life-long speciality of handling one and the same tool, now becomes the life-long speciality of serving one and the same machine. Machinery is put to a wrong use, with the object of transforming the workman, from his very childhood, into a part of a detail-machine” (Marx). And not only the labourers but also the classes directly or indirectly exploiting the labourers are made subject, through the division of labour, to the tool of their function: the empty-minded bourgeois to his own capital and his own insane craving for profits; the lawyer to his fossilised legal conceptions, which dominate him as an independent power; the “educated classes” in general to their manifold species of local narrow-mindedness and one-sidedness, to their own physical and mental short-sightedness, to their stunted growth due to their narrow specialised education and their being chained for life to this specialised activity — even when this specialised activity is merely to do nothing.

The utopians were already perfectly clear in their minds as to the effects of the division of labour, the stunting on the one hand of the labourer, and on the other of the labour function, which is restricted to the lifelong uniform mechanical repetition of one and the same operation. The abolition of the antithesis between town and country was demanded by Fourier, as by Owen, as the first basic prerequisite for the abolition of the old division of labour altogether. Both of them thought that the population should be scattered through the country in groups of sixteen hundred to three thousand persons; each group was to occupy a gigantic palace, with a household run on communal lines, in the centre of their area of land. It is true that Fourier occasionally refers to towns, but these were to consist in turn of only four or five such palaces situated near each other. Both writers would have each member of society occupied in agriculture as well as in industry; with Fourier, industry covers chiefly handicrafts and manufacture, while Owen assigns the main role to modern industry and already demands the introduction of steam-power and machinery in domestic work. But within agriculture as well as industry both of them also demand the greatest possible variety of occupation for each individual, and in accordance with this, the training of the youth for the utmost possible all-round technical functions. They both consider that man should gain universal development through universal practical activity and that labour should recover the attractiveness of which the division of labour has despoiled it, in the first place through this variation of occupation, and through the correspondingly short duration of the “sitting” — to use Fourier’s expression — devoted to each particular kind of work. Both Fourier and Owen are far in advance of the mode of thought of the exploiting classes inherited by Herr Dühring, according to which the antithesis between town and country is inevitable in the nature of things; the narrow view that a number of “entities” {D. C. 257} must in any event be condemned to the production of one single article, the view that desires to perpetuate the “economic species” {329} of men distinguished by their way of life — people who take pleasure in the performance of precisely this and no other thing, who have therefore sunk so low that they rejoice in their own subjection and one-sidedness. In comparison with the basic conceptions even of the “idiot” {D. K. G. 286} Fourier’s most recklessly bold fantasies; in comparison even with the paltriest ideas of the “crude, feeble, and paltry” {295, 296} Owen — Herr Dühring, himself still completely dominated by the division of labour, is no more than an impertinent dwarf.

In making itself the master of all the means of production to use them in accordance with a social plan, society puts an end to the former subjection of men to their own means of production. It goes without saying that society cannot free itself unless every individual is freed. The old mode of production must therefore be revolutionised from top to bottom, and in particular the former division of labour must disappear. Its place must be taken by an organisation of production in which, on the one hand, no individual can throw on the shoulders of others his share in productive labour, this natural condition of human existence; and in which, on the other hand, productive labour, instead of being a means of subjugating men, will become a means of their emancipation, by offering each individual the opportunity to develop all his faculties, physical and mental, in all directions and exercise them to the full — in which, therefore, productive labour will become a pleasure instead of being a burden.

Today this is no longer a fantasy, no longer a pious wish. With the present development of the productive forces, the increase in production that will follow from the very fact of the socialisation of the productive forces, coupled with the abolition of the barriers and disturbances, and of the waste of products and means of production, resulting from the capitalist mode of production, will suffice, with everybody doing his share of work, to reduce the time required for labour to a point which, measured by our present conceptions, will be small indeed.

Nor is the abolition of the old division of labour a demand which could only be carried through to the detriment of the productivity of labour. On the contrary. Thanks to modern industry it has become a condition of production itself. “The employment of machinery does away with the necessity of crystallising the distribution of various groups of workmen among the different kinds of machines after the manner of Manufacture, by the constant annexation of a particular man to a particular function. Since the motion of the whole system does not proceed from the workman, but from the machinery, a change of persons can take place at any time without an interruption of the work... Lastly, the quickness with which machine work is learnt by young people, does away with the necessity of bringing up for exclusive employment by machinery, a special class of operatives.” But while the capitalist mode of employment of machinery necessarily perpetuates the old division of labour with its fossilised specialisation, although it has become superfluous from a technical standpoint, the machinery itself rebels against this anachronism. The technical basis of modern industry is revolutionary. ”By means of machinery, chemical processes and other methods, it is continually causing changes not only in the technical basis of production, but also in the functions of the labourer, and in the social combinations of the labour-process. At the same time, it thereby also revolutionises the division of labour within the society, and incessantly launches masses of capital and of workpeople from one branch of production to another. Modern industry, by its very nature, therefore necessitates variation of labour, fluency of function, universal mobility of the labourer... We have seen how this absolute contradiction ... vents its rage in the incessant human sacrifices from among the working-class, in the most reckless squandering of labour-power, and in the devastation caused by social anarchy. This is the negative side. But if, on the one hand, variation of work at present imposes itself after the manner of an overpowering natural law, and with the blindly destructive action of a natural law that meets with resistance at all points, modern industry, on the other hand, through its catastrophes imposes the necessity of recognising, as a fundamental law of production, variation of work, consequently fitness of the labourer for varied work, consequently the greatest possible development of his varied aptitudes. It becomes a question of life and death for society to adapt the mode of production to the normal functioning of this law. Modern industry makes it a question of life and death to replace the monstrosity of a destitute working population kept in reserve at the disposal of capital for the changing needs of exploitation with the absolute availability of man for the changing requirements of labour; to replace what is virtually a mere fragment of the individual, the mere carrier of a social detail-function, with the fully developed individual, to whom the different social functions are so many alternating modes of activity” (Marx, Capital).

Modern industry, which has taught us to convert the movement of molecules, something more or less universally feasible, into the movement of masses for technical purposes, has thereby to a considerable extent freed production from restrictions of locality. Water-power was local; steam-power is free. While water-power is necessarily rural, steam-power is by no means necessarily urban. It is capitalist utilisation which concentrates it mainly in the towns and changes factory villages into factory towns. But in so doing it at the same time undermines the conditions under which it operates. The first requirement of the steam-engine, and a main requirement of almost all branches of production in modern industry, is relatively pure water. But the factory town transforms all water into stinking manure. However much therefore urban concentration is a basic condition of capitalist production, each individual industrial capitalist is constantly striving to get away from the large towns necessarily created by this production, and to transfer his plant to the countryside. This process can be studied in detail in the textile industry districts of Lancashire and Yorkshire; modern capitalist industry is constantly bringing new large towns into being there by constant flight from the towns into the country. The situation is similar in the metal-working districts where, in part, other causes produce the same effects.

Once more, only the abolition of the capitalist character of modern industry can bring us out of this new vicious circle, can resolve this contradiction in modern industry, which is constantly reproducing itself. Only a society which makes it possible for its productive forces to dovetail harmoniously into each other on the basis of one single vast plan can allow industry to be distributed over the whole country in the way best adapted to its own development, and to the maintenance and development of the other elements of production.

Accordingly, abolition of the antithesis between town and country is not merely possible. It has become a direct necessity of industrial production itself, just as it has become a necessity of agricultural production and, besides, of public health. The present poisoning of the air, water and land can be put an end to only by the fusion of town and country; and only such fusion will change the situation of the masses now languishing in the towns, and enable their excrement to be used for the production of plants instead of for the production of disease.

Capitalist industry has already made itself relatively independent of the local limitations arising from the location of sources of the raw materials it needs. The textile industry works up, in the main, imported raw materials. Spanish iron ore is worked up in England and Germany and Spanish and South-American copper ores, in England. Every coalfield now supplies fuel to an industrial area far beyond its own borders, an area which is widening every year. Along the whole of the European coast steam-engines are driven by English and to some extent also by German and Belgian coal. Society liberated from the restrictions of capitalist production can go much further still. By generating a race of producers with an all-round development who understand the scientific basis of industrial production as a whole, and each of whom has had practical experience in a whole series of branches of production from start to finish, this society will bring into being a new productive force which will abundantly compensate for the labour required to transport raw materials and fuel from great distances.

The abolition of the separation of town and country is therefore not utopian, also, in so far as it is conditioned on the most equal distribution possible of modern industry over the whole country. It is true that in the huge towns civilisation has bequeathed us a heritage which it will take much time and trouble to get rid of. But it must and will be got rid of, however, protracted a process it may be. Whatever destiny may be in store for the German Empire of the Prussian nation, [119] Bismarck can go to his grave proudly aware that the desire of his heart is sure to be fulfilled: the great towns will perish. [120]

And now see how puerile is Herr Dühring’s idea that society can take possession of all means of production in the aggregate without revolutionising from top to bottom the old method of production and first of all putting an end to the old division of labour; that everything will be in order once

“natural opportunities and personal capabilities are taken into account” {D. C. 259} —

that therefore whole masses of entities will remain, as in the past, subjected to the production of one single article; whole “populations” {275} will be engaged in a single branch of production, and humanity continue to be divided, as in the past, into a number of different crippled “economic species” {329}, for there still are “porters” and “architects” {D. K.G. 500}. Society is to become master of the means of production as a whole, in order that each individual may remain the slave of his means of production, and have only a choice as to which means of production are to enslave him. And see also how Herr Dühring considers the separation of town and country as “inevitable in the nature of things” {D. C. 232}, and can find only a tiny palliative in schnaps-distilling and beet-sugar manufacturing — two, in their connection specifically Prussian, branches of industry; how he makes the distribution of industry over the country dependent on certain future inventions and on the necessity of associating industry directly with the procurement of raw materials — raw materials which are already used at an ever increasing distance from their place of origin! And Herr Dühring finally tries to cover up his rear by assuring us that in the long run social wants will carry through the union between agriculture and industry even against economic considerations, as if this would be some economic sacrifice!

Certainly, to be able to see that the revolutionary elements which will do away with the old division of labour, along with the separation of town and country, and will revolutionise the whole of production; see that these elements are already contained in embryo in the production conditions of modern large-scale industry and that their development is hindered by the existing capitalist mode of production — to be able to see these things, it is necessary to have a somewhat wider horizon than the sphere of jurisdiction of Prussian law, than the country where production of schnaps and beet-sugar are the key industries, and where commercial crises can be studied on the book market. To be able to see these things it is necessary to have some knowledge of real large-scale industry in its historical growth and in its present actual form, especially in the one country where it has its home and where alone it has attained its classical development. Then no one will think of attempting to vulgarise modern scientific socialism and to degrade it into Herr Dühring’s specifically Prussian socialism.